Friday, December 30, 2005

Sometimes it all Pays Off

Roger was attacked Dec. 27th by a mentally disturbed person with a knife. He was on duty, in uniform watching an inmate at the hospital. The attacker drew him close by asking a question and at contact range drew a knife...

Roger closed, pinioning the knife arm against the assailant's body, used the elbow leverage point to spin the bigger man, pushed him away against his weak line of balance, drew his Tazer and brought him down. Not a scratch.

It was all filmed by the hospital security cameras.

For the last two years, the training unit has put in an ungodly amount of overtime, designed new classes and new ways to teach, fought bureaucracy. We have been so tired we weren't safe to drive home and burned vacation hours for enough time for a nap.

In ten seconds, it all paid off.

Roger is a hero, a survivor and a fighter. He would have lived without any training. But he might well have been injured and he surely would have been forced to kill the threat.

MCSO training unit: "We train heroes"

The Grinch Rant

Spent christmas in jail, as usual, and liked it just fine. The holiday season annoys me. The music really gets on my nerves but it's more than that. It's the production of it.

If you care about your family, every day is a special day to let them know. Throughout the year, when I see something that reminds me of someone I care about, that is the time for a gift that always comes form the heart. The frantic list making and forced expectation to be thoughful with a dead line feels wrong.

If you buy into the religious aspect of this or any holiday, the fact that you act or think differently on one day a year should be a source of profound shame for the other 364. If your beliefs are truly part of you they express in all of your actions and every second of your life. If not, it becomes a production, hollow and empty.

"If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do differently today?" she asked.
"Not a thing." Because I'm already creating the life I love. If something in my life lacked heart, I jettisoned it long ago.

Why would anyone act differently on christmas, unless they believed they were wrong the rest of the time?

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Can't talk about the situation too much. After assisting a pair of detectives with an evidence search I escorted them out of the jail. One turned and said, "You must have a major reputation. That guy was NOT going to go easily and you showed up and he calmed right down."

"Naah, I'm kind, sweet, innocent and gentle. Everybody loves me." There's no good way to answer that, really.

It could, however, help explain why I've had so few uses of force in the last couple of years. Medium security is a lot of it. Getting better at talking is a lot of it... but I still get called once or twice a week for situations where the OIC or the deputy is sure there's going to be a fight and it doesn't happen. The only UofF I even remember from the whole year was breaking up a fight between two inmates too involved to see what officer was there.

Christmas night, to set up an emergency drill I climbed up the side of the building onto the roof. It was supposed to be an intruder on the roof drill (Christmas, get it?). Staff responded well, but afterwards several asked how I got up there without setting off alarms... I never had to answer. A senior officer was always there to say, "He probably climbed. Sarge is always pulling that spiderman shit." Always?

Doesn't always work in my favor- my favorite Captain argued at the chief's meeting that the agency should go to a standard sidearm, "If we let people carry anything they wanted, Rory would be running around with a sword." The chief who held the meeting later dismissed a proposal out of hand- "He's just a tactical guy, this is outside his area." Since, as everyone knows fighters can't think, right? Grrr.

Two Paths

Met with Russ today.

Almost 25 years ago I got involved in judo at OSU, dabbled in weapons, karate, TKD...anything martial...but I loved judo. About eight years later, living in a new city and looking for a dojo I discovered Sosuishi-ryu jujutsu and was hooked. I studied it, lived it, breathed it until my sensei retired.

Russ also stumbled across Sosuishi-ryu and he was just as hooked. We didn't work out at the same dojo and didn't meet until sometime later. By then our paths had diverged.

When it was time to take our arts where they needed to go, Russ went to Japan. I went to jail. Russ has gone , and is still going, deeper into the history and application and heart of the style than any American I know. He has seen the densho. He has tracked the differences introduced in the early part of this century and has helped to preserve the older aspects. Russ has made a life for himself in Japan, centered around his family and bujutsu.

I became a corrections officer and eventually a sergeant and tactical team leader. I took my martial path into the application and the guts, tracking the insights and practicality of an old system designed to be used... using it. My life is centered around family and work, my work is criminals and bujutsu.

When we get together, it's eerie. Similar wicked, dry sense of humor. Same soaring, wild imagination. I pick his brains for his stories, his insights and let things click as the old knowledge meets my experience and makes it clearer- these old guys knew how to survive. The whole time I am jealous, because I can imagine being on his path. Imagine a slight twist in history and we would be on opposite sides of the table, Russ would adapt as well to the job as I have, possibly I would have made the connections in Japan that he has. It would be the exact same conversation with only the voices changed.

We share war stories: deranged criminals versus rude sarari-man; near riots versus crusty teachers; teaching cops versus demonstrating at embu with a dislocated shoulder (Russ is tough!) And we ask each other questions. Thousands of questions. When I know I am going to see Russ I make a list of things to ask, and usually forget the list. That's fine- I learn as much as I can remember without the list.

Great day. Cheers, Mekugi!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Thinking Ahead

You have studied and lived something for decades. Within certain circles and for certain applications, you are getting recognition as an authority. In ten days you will be given an audience of 100 people ranging from beginners to experts. You will be one of a dozen teachers. You will have one hour.

Do you teach the beautiful historic roots of your specialty?

Do you give the talk that has led to your recognition?

Do you present your latest epiphany?

Do you get them out on the mat and make them sweat?

Demonstrate at real-life speed and ferocity?

Try to teach them to see?

Give them a single, solid building block of technique?

Introduce them to the new teaching methodology?

Do all of these? Some of these?

Or get out there on the mat and just wing it- Let's play!

Technique, principles or scenario based?

On the plane trip I will, as usual, outline a dozen possible classes, prepare notes, list equipment. Then I'll probably wing it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Point of No Return

You can't take anything back. Whatever you've done is done, so in a sense every action is a point of no return. You can never become the person you were before you took a specific action or before a certain event happened.

Still, there are moments where you act and for a time there is full knowledge that your life may change drastically because of the action, but you can't begin to imagine how. Taking the oath to serve. Pulling a trigger. Becoming a father.

There is a new one today in my life- I sent out query letters for the book. Maybe nothing will change. Maybe many things will. For the moment, though, the trigger has been pulled and I am waiting. I'm actually relishing the voice in the back of my head that is squeeling like a scared child, "Take it back! Take it back!" I've heard it before and know that it comes from the other side of the Point of No Return. It is the voice of someone I no longer am and can never be again.

Wish good changes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"The Moral is to the Physical..."

Did the panel interviews for tactical team candidates today. It's not what I think most civillians would expect- I care very little about their skills or tactical understanding or knowledge of the trivia of combat, we'll give them what they need of those things.

The big questions are to see if they really understand their responsibility and if they will mesh with the culture of the team.

The culture of the team. Every team has a way of thinking, a way of looking at the world. Ours, from day one, was planned and designed. We knew we would be wielding great power- there is great power in the correctional system any way- but even more so with a specialty team in an emergency. Our state law allows corrections to use force to "maintain order". We would literally be called in to situations where we could easily justify using deadly force and we would resolve it at a lower, safer level.

Our culture was designed around responsibility and risk management. We were never to be called in because we were bigger or stronger or better equipped but because we were more skilled, cool and professional. We can and have gone into situations (PCP freak in a small cell with two shanks) and resolved it hand-to-hand, without injury. I wanted bored veterans, not kids with something to prove. People who have thought through the possibility that some day they may be called on to take a life and both refuse to discount the cost yet assume the responsibilty. People who will do it if it is the right thing to do.

So the test is about that- what do you think makes a good team? A good team member? What purpose does the team serve? For the agency? For the community?

We give them scenarios and the scenarios are explicitly designed to test two things:
1) Will they disobey a direct order if they need to? I don't need puppets. Blind faith whether in tactics or religion is only blindness. I most value the people who will step up and tell me when I'm full of shit.
2) Will they do what needs to be done no matter how bad it sounds? If they worry more about how they look than the primary mission they will freeze. There has to be an element of selflessness in these men and women. They are giving up a big chunk of their lives to a pager, risking huge liability and physical danger... if they're doing it to look cool in a black uniform, they're wasting my air.

We throw a rattler question in. They're already in one of those panel interviews that makes everyone nervous, they're starting to get comfortable with the flow of questions and then we throw one in from left field. This year:

Napoleon said that in battle, the moral is to the physical as three to one. What did he mean? How does it apply to you and the team?

I dropped this on several current team members and got pretty uniform responses- the spiritual and mental attributes such as tenacity, morale, team work, dedication and the will to fight are far more important than numbers or equipment.

The candidates all choked, but most recovered nicely. It was fun to see their eyes get big when they heard the question... but not one of them understood it. I was disappointed. They've all fought, but had either not realized or never stopped to understand that fighting is far more mental than it is physical.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Movin' On

Jail in an ice storm. Too few staff, supply problems, maintenance issues... gates on manual, locked open. No visiting. In the first few minutes of the shift as OIC (Officer in Charge, an acting shift commander) the schedule had to be adjusted both for the short crew and the ones who would be late; duties assigned and distributed; maintenance issues from cars and vans to gates, doors and electric locks predicted and prevented... so far.

It was busy and good, creative and responsible work. Making a plan on the fly and watching it all come together is a great joy. I truly enjoy taking a chaotic situation and making it better. I sometimes, with a twinge of guilt, wish that there were more chaotic situations to fix.

Within two hours I had forgotten almost all of it. It was over, done. Replaced with the hours of arranging coverage for the next shift; talking to visitors who might have traveled very far and were not going to get their visits...

Here's a mind bender for you- everyone in here is three distinct people. There's 'X' the prisoner- how he acts on the inside, adapts to the rules, maintains his sense of self respect. Then there's X the criminal. There are people who are intelligent, articulate respectful and respected gentlemen in jail who have done vicious and depraved things to get there- multiple counts of kidnap, rape sodomy and murder in one memorable example. And there are people in here who are complete asses: rude, violent (though rarely brave, they choose their victims with an eye to their own safety) vicious and petty whose crimes on the outside are very small- DUIIs, larceny. The third X is the one with the family, the one who has children who will drive for two hundred miles to show him the new child or grandchild. They will always see the husband/father/brother, not the convict and not the criminal. Sometimes, Convict X is a much better person than Father X- he's sober, less violent, clearer headed. Sometimes he has a talent like art or writing that outside the walls is lost in the haze of drugs or the constant activity of hustling.

Enough of an aside. Things move quickly. I try to live them while they are there and let them go when they pass. Do I really forget things, or just don't hang on to them? What would the difference be?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Got a minute?"

It started before we returned from the overnight trip to the coast. There was a message on the answering machine trying to schedule a meeting of the Defensive Tactics instructors. The training unit called, adding another class to my schedule. I had to call them to confirm a rumor that another class had been cancelled.

Arriving at work, not even officially there yet, just early as usual, "Sarge you got a minute?" Tactical team stuff- reassignment of radio call signs, scheduling training time at a facility, "Oh, by the way, you need to write the test questions for the Oral Boards and the lieutenant needs them tomorrow morning." "Got a minute? That class last week was awesome..." "Got a minute? We got a combative paranoid schizophrenic needs to go to the hole. Won't get it done on our shift, can you take care of it? Most of the paperwork is done." "Good to see you, buddy, what's you do, take a day off? Where'd you go? How's the family? Really could have used you yesterday, the west end went to hell in a hand basket..."

At a different time it might have been flattering or ego stroking- people rely on me, people I like and respect like and respect me. I love being useful... but people make me tired. Civilization makes me tired.

Before I got all grown up, before the obligations of work and family, I avoided people for the most part. I would spend long hours alone in the desert or on a mountain. It wasn't introspective in the slightest. Solitude was never about brooding, it was about opening.

Mac talks about acheiving a level of pure intention, when what should be, what you will simply is. It is a state of purity that he wants to lead me towards.

My natural state, my personal purity is to be in a state of pure awareness where there is no step between sensation and action, no conscious thought filtering myself from the world. I've spent days in this state without a word sounding in my mind, smelling and moving to water without once thinking of 'water' or 'thirst' drinking with nothing in my mind but the sensation of sunlight and water and muscles and air and rock.

Once long ago there was a period of ten days where I was able to maintain this state around people, able to perceive and act and even talk without conscious thought. It is almost impossible to acheive and probably impossible to maintain since all of civilization is about explaining things. That's what talking and communication and laws and almost all human interaction, even sex and violence boil down to. Sometimes there is an exception for violence, sometimes there is an ambush and you can slip the leash with no though of consequence or meaning; just perceive and act without filters or questions. There is probably an equivalent primal sex, no meaning beyond the physical moment, pure sensation... but I have a hard time imagining two people simultaneously being able to do this without issues of emotion and esteem and love and meaning, without thinking of either the future or the past.

This is my purity. It probably stems from the opposite end of Mac's perfect intention. Perhaps mine is physical, his spiritual; animal versus godly; low versus high.

It's been a very long time since I wandered off for long enough to empty the civilization out of my brain. Let go of all of the voices asking if I "Got a minute?" Part of me is pretty sure I wouldn't bother to return.


I need to train my children on how to have a vacation. At the end of each term, if their grades are good, we take them on a trip. Usually to the coast. The Oregon coast is beautiful, stormy, rocky and wild and we have lots of memories there as a family and years of memories as a couple before the kids were born.

In college we would drive to the coast and climb cliffs at night in a raging storm, feeling the basalt shudder with the impact of the waves; play tag across the slippery rocks; practice martial arts unarmed and with boken and bo waste deep in the frigid water. We would snorkel until the cold water gave us an ice cream headache or bodysurf at Gleneden beach.

Unable to afford a hotel we would camp on the beach or up a logging road, sleeping in fifteen-dollar Kmart tents or in the back of the jeep. We would get fresh snapper (cheap) directly from the boats and cook it in the coals of a drift wood fire... delicious despite the burnt fingers. Photos from that time show young men swordfighting by fire light and beautiful young women belly-dancing.

This is the coast I want to share with my children, this is the sense of fun and uncivilized freedom I want them to feel, to yearn for, when they think of a vacation. Instead, too much they think of a hotel with a pool, a hot tub and the Cartoon Network (I won't get cable at home and would happily destroy the TVs but I am outvoted). It's good in its own way. We are prospering and can afford the luxury, we have a membership in a sort of flexible time share of resorts worldwide. Beds are nice. Hot showers and kitchens are nice. Hot tubs are very nice and even as college kids we would not have refused a chance to finish the day in one.

When it was time to leave the hotel, I would look longingly at a rock on the beach, forty feet high of good solid basalt with holds very rare on the lower part that has been eroded by waves. My son would think of it too... but only for a moment, then he would be distracted by the possibility of shopping in a new place, eating in a new restaurant.

That was how the vacation was spent, with the exception of a few hours. For a few hours we hiked along the beach, explored shallow sea caves and I was able to show the kids the iron pyrite deposits near the Devil's Punchbowl and sword fight while mom sampled wine at a tasting room.

For too much of the rest, though, it was shopping and eating out, things I avoid doing whenever I can at home. It's an ambivalent feeling, taking time from a busy schedule to spend time doing things you hate doing with people you love spending time with.

So I'm going to teach my kids how to vacation and this year they will raft and climb and cave and snorkle and I will teach them to rappel and, hopefully, they will have memories of high adventure instead of high pasta; new experiences instead of nouvelle cuisine.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"An Equal and Opposite Reaction"

A quote from Mac: " Awareness-- a two-way street. Most people think of awareness as one-way, a process of reception, of perceiving and processing incoming stimuli/information. But it is really two-way, due primarily to the fundamental laws of the universe: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Perceiving is an action, an energy action. And since energy and matter are two sides of the same coin, perceiving - awareness- is also material. It affects you, and the environment. The process of perceiving recieves and expresses energy."

I glitched on this hard when he first presented it. I thought I knew where he was going with it, but in many ways I'm a very concrete thinker- the world is the world and all that perception can act on is my world view, not the world itself. I took it as a neat word picture to explain some fundamental truths- the world is the way you see it; the more you see the more you can affect. Stuff like that.

I keep thinking about it and it keeps bouncing back in my head to the "Big Three", especially the combination of awareness and permission. World view is a powerful tool. If something has convinced you that a thing is impossible, you won't be able to do it, might not be able to imagine it. If you convince yourself of infinite possibilities, the world opens up before you.

For want of a better word, world view can be contagious.

I've never been involved in a bad Use of Force. I've heard of them and listened to knowledgable people who believe that bad (excessive or unnecessary) UoFs are the norm, but I've never seen one. In my worldview, we are professionals who sometimes employ force and we do it as professionals, with honor and skill. Every officer in my experience, even when I was a rank rookie, has lived up to this expectation, to MY expectation. They have adapted, for some reason or other, to my world view. Equal and opposite reaction?

Is this a mechanism for my ability to talk down volatile, insane, drug-ravaged freaks? I see them as reachable, as listening and calm and the perception forces them to adapt to my world view?

Rationally, it doesn't seem particularly possibe, but most of our impossibilities are imaginary anyway, perceptions borrowed from others. I'll work with this for awhile, see if Mac's attempt to bring me to "pure intention" is the same as "pure perception" and the two are equal, yet opposite.


The Go Rin no Sho is an important and useful work for the martial artist or anyone engaged in conflict, but value it for what it is and recognize what it is not.

It is not a moral or ethical guide. 'Kensei' gets translated as "sword saint" but Musashi was no saint-- he was a murdering bastard who, late in life when he felt death closing in, attempted to recreate himself, elevating his murders to duels and his insights to enlightenment. No where but in tales of Musashi's life is hitting someone over the head from behind as he is preparing for a duel seen as an example of sword skill or as masterful strategy. Were I to challenge you to a sword fight to prove the superiority of my school and then say, "You first," and waved you through like a gentleman as we entered the arena and then whacked you over the back of the head with a sap, no one would call that act a duel or a masterpiece of strategy. It is only good strategy if the goal is simply to kill. If the goal is to show or improve skill, it does not serve.

That's the caveat-- but there are useful things in the book, things of value and ways to think and feel and see.

Musashi's rules / my commentary:
1) Do not think dishonestly. Do not lie to yourself, ever.
2) The Way is in training. Work and learn hard, no one has ever improved by sitting on their ass and waiting.
3) Become acquainted with every art. Never pass up an opportunity to learn how an artist or skilled craftsman thinks or sees the world. Seek out the best and listen.
4) Know the ways of all professions. The world works because people do jobs. Learn about the jobs that make the world work and how they interconnect. Know ditch diggers and burger slingers, architects and doctors and understand how they need each other.
5) Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters. Know what matters. Protect what is truly precious, let go what is not. Do not lie to yourself about these categories or let society lie to you.
6) Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything. Trust your gut. Practice trusting your gut. Then practice deciphering your gut so that you can explain it verbally and you will develop intuition AND understanding.
7) Perceive those things that cannot be seen. Everything leaves tracks. Everything affects other things. When you learn to read the tracks, you can deal with invisible problems, like past trauma in a student.
8) Pay attention to trivial things. The tracks are in the small things, and small things affect big things. The tightening around your eyes will tell me more than a hundred of your words.
9) Do nothing that is of no use. My personal favorite- if you spend time doing something, it should make you or the world better. How many hours are wasted each day with TV shows that you won't remember next week or trivia or... how strong would you be if that time was spent working out? How much better could you make the world if the time was spent helping others?

There is more there in the book. Good lessons. None of which will help you a damn bit unless you practice them. Life is funny that way.

Friday, December 09, 2005


As the year ends, it's time to stop for a moment and take a look at how life is going. That requires breaking it down into pieces. Not too big pieces- nothing as vague as "Am I good person?" And not too small- "Do I treat the cats the way I would want to be treated if I was a cat? What about the goldfish? Garden snails?"

I follow the advice of Steve Barnes, a friend who writes, but his true vocation is trying to fix and improve people. Divide your life into mental, physical and spiritual. Those labels can be vague and hard to measure so he has a set of yard sticks: If you are making a living wage at a job you love you are doing well mentally. If you are in good shape and good health, you are doing well physically. If you have healthy, enjoyable and friendly intimate relationships and close friends, you are doing well spiritually. It is very simple. If you have a problem in any of these areas, the problem stems from you. If you balk at the choice of yardsticks ("Everybody hates me but I'm alright with God") you have a problem and are denying it.

Mental- the job is going well. If anything I've reached a level of competency where I am bored far too often. To fight that, I've transferred a lot of attention to training and designing training- doing things that I love very much and making good overtime at it. There's more than just the job here. Pretty consistently I read two non-fiction books a week, keeping the information and ideas flowing. I've been writing also, flowing out as well as in.

Spiritually- It's very easy to have a happy and satisfying life when you are surrounded by great people. Kami and I have the kind of love that belongs in a legend, deep and ardent. Despite the challenges of a teenage boy, I not only love but like and respect my children. It is a miracle to watch them become the man and woman they will be. It is an honor to help as much as I can. True friends are rare, but mine are extraordinary (my friends are cooler than your friends..nyeah nyeah nyeah!) from my knife-scarred warrior brother in Montreal to the legendary silverback Mac; the beautiful six foot amazon physicist/computer engineer to the nearly dwarf former marine with a way with words that sounds like a profane Shakespeare; from the Titans- Clyde, Bill and 'ski- to the tiny retiring poet; from the complex seeker learning the truth of violence to the wise talker who walked away from it...I'm surrounded by good people who excel most fantasy characters in depth as well as ability.

On the other side of spirit, I don't meditate enough, or spend time in solitude. It has been years since I went into the desert far enough that I couldn't smell people and stayed long enough that the voice in my head became perfectly still. It has been months since I rode the wings of the wind, staking my life on skill and nerve on a cliff or in a kayak or deep in a cave.

Physically things are not going as well. Injuries pile up. Right now both knees, one shoulder and lower back are injured to varying degrees. It's hard to sleep, partially because of commitments, partially discomfort... but deep down it's something more. For my entire life, working out has been a habit- pushing hard at flexibility, endurance and power. Lately it has become a chore, and an easy chore to let slide at that. In this dimension, something deep is broken and I'm not sure exactly what.

This is the evaluation of where things are. Soon it will be time to decide where to take them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Marketing the Price

I had a completely irrational emotional reaction the other day. Having lunch with two of the people I love best in the world, both writers, one of SF, the other fantasy. They were critiquing my book-in-process on violence. This has been a mutual relationship for a long time, they teach me how to write and I serve as sort of a reality check for their writing.

I was tired and the conversation was drifting around the subjects of war and horror and injury and whether people (editors and readers) who say they want "gritty realism" could really handle it. Good men die in novels and leave a horrible sense of loss. Good men die in real life squeeling and crying, kicking the dirt and screaming for their mothers to come and take the pain away.

Mike talked about writers who did major research so that they could describe those moments. My gut clenched up. I can barely stand to read fiction anyway. Think about it- sex and violence are the core issues of conflict, hence of entertainment, hence of fiction... and most authors write like they've had sex maybe once (with a partner) and NEVER been in a fight. I guess I have problems with suspending disbelief.

But researching to get it right bothered me even more. I said, "Graverobbers" out loud. I've spent the last two days digging into that reaction. I like the truth. I like reality. Most people who talk out their ass about violence need a good, well-researched wake up call.

I can't stand to read bad fiction, but its existance doesn't bother me. I've looked over conventions of writers and fans and they write for each other- one wants the luscious maiden and heroic warrior, the other supplies them. They are both "fiction people" and it keeps them off the street and away from big decisions where their fantasies might affect other people's lives.

But the idea of good, almost non-fiction fiction bothered me in the abstract (not in real life, some of my favorite books are exhaustively researched historical novels- the Sharpe's Rifles series, Master and Commander and the Flashman books).

I think it's because that knowledge comes with a heavy price- you remember looking into an empty fresh skull and the smell of brains and the indignity of plumber's crack in death. You sometimes catch yourself staring at the scars on your hands and idly counting them or thinking of the smooth hand you shook that morning. There is a gulf when you realize that you know more murderers by first name than school teachers.

I was offended by the possibility that someone would profit from the experiences paid for by another. So the word "graverobber" sprang to my lips.

It is utterly irrational. The price has been paid and much can be learned from it. The more it is spread, the more good and understanding results, the better. Relatively, the price may seem lower. Utterly irrational, like having a problem with robbing graves. The victims are dead and can neither know nor care, the jewelry or artifacts dug up could do much good, spreading wisdom and granting wealth to those in need...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Learning From Emptiness

Intuition is one of the most important elements of survival. Intuition expressed as fear- the tingling in the back of your neck or the feeling of vague disquiet- can keep you alive if you heed and act. However it is difficult to practice, difficult to train.

In Operant Conditioning terms, an intuitive warning is reinforced by a 'negative reward'. Quick explanation of terms:
Positive Reward (PR): Something good happens. Puppy gets a treat.
Negative Reward (NR): Something bad DOESN'T happen. Puppy doesn't get kicked.
Positive Punishment (PP): Something bad happens. Puppy gets kicked.
Negative Punishment (NP): Something good is withheld. Puppy gets ignored.

Positive and Negative are not value judgements but only indicate presence or absence. Reward and Punish are the value holders.

A few more examples- grounding is NP, denying contact with other kids. Spanking is PP, adding pain. Going out for ice cream is PR, adding a treat. Giving a day off from homework is NR, removing something unpleasant. The Operant Conditioning concept is a good tool. Once you realize that something as simple as a smile can be used as PR or a blank stare as NP you can modify behaviors even in a short conversation.

There are some rules for this- PP and PR should follow the action you want modified as soon as possible. If the result is delayed, it will be tied to the behavior that immediately preceded it. Example, criminals almost never associate their sentence with their crimes, but with their trials. You will hear, "I got 72 months because my attorney was a dick." You will not hear, "I got 72 months because I robbed and beat a guy almost to death."

One of the rules is that NR is one of the weakest ways to change behavior, and NR is the operating factor in training intuition.

Think about that: you get a bad feeling so you don't go to the stranger's car or open the door to the smiling delivery man or walk down that dark alley and consequently you AREN'T raped or murdered or robbed. But you'll never know for sure if it was going to happen, so you'll never be sure what, if anything, you prevented.

Several years ago, I got a bad feeling about the kitchen. Our kitchen has 25 inmates, three civilians and one unarmed officer along with all the knives, tools and machines you expect in an industrial kitchen. Earlier in the day we had inmates refusing to go to work, then inmates getting in trouble for stupid stuff almost like they wanted to go to 'the hole'... it seemed like they wanted to be out of there. My internal alarms were going off. I talked to the lieutenant and he authorized me one deputy to try to prevent whatever was (or wasn't) going to happen. I picked Craig, one of my tactical team members, former marine, good officer and a good man and we spent the rest of the shift in the kitchen, talking to everyone, being everywhere.

Nothing happened. I'll never know if we prevented a hostage situation, a riot, a planned fight or nothing at all. Nothing happened. It's hard to learn from nothing.

Last night, I was priveleged to watch an old friend work. Andy was my predecessor as Tactical Team leader. He had a problem in reception- a huge, violent con who was refusing to process into the jail. I listened as Andy laid out his detailed, spur-of-the-moment tactical plan with the easy authority that I've always admired. This was the man who had taught me to plan and I didn't realize it before. The plan went off without a hitch, the positions of the deputies, the tools present, the verbal commands, the timing and contingencies all laid out in advance and the inmate never had an opportunity to succeed so he didn't get violent. No force was necessary, no force was used. Nothing happened.

Afterwards, Andy asked me if he handled it right, if he should have authorized force during the few times it would have been within policy. First off, it's weird being asked for a critique from someone you consider your teacher. But the core is that even with his experience and his certain knowledge that a use of force avoided is better than one won, the fact that nothing happened felt wrong. Incomplete. No closure.

Some of the greatest successes are empty and invisible. It's hard to celebrate that.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Great Philosophers

Some years ago a book called "The Closing of the American Mind" inspired me to begin reading Philosophy. I'm one of those people who made it almost all the way through college without ever taking a Liberal arts core course- I took languages instead of foreign studies; anthropolgy, psychology and sociology instead of minority studies or political science; biology instead of current events or history. My introduction to logic was in mathematics, statistics and experimental design courses, not philosophy.

When my senior advisor pointed out that I'd avoided these courses (it wasn't conscious, I spent my time learning the stuff I wanted to know) and that it was required to graduate, I took a term filled with LA stuff. It lived up to my expectations- professors with a thin grasp of history ignoring their own stated facts to present their 'enlightened' conclusions. It was about opinion and seemed to be more about finding weasel room in the facts so that they could be twisted to your own predetermined conclusion than about learning. Philosophy, "the love of learning" in my experience had nothing to do with learning at all. It was an academic discipline for people who couldn't survive if held to a consistant standard.

"The Closing of the American Mind" was a lament of the decline of philosophy in American education, but I was inspired by something else. The author had been able to point out how changes in philosophical thinking had inspired or enabled major changes in politics and culture. Hmmm. So we got a group together and started reading and discussing Western Philosophers from the ancient to the past. (We planned to do Eastern later). That I remember we read Plato (Symposium, Republic, a few others), Aristotle (Metaphysics, Politics and Nichomachean Ethics), Lucretius (De Rerum Naturae), and Marcus Aurelius (Meditations) before the group disbanded. I've stuck with it alone, a little less intently, hence the present reading of "The City of God". Hey! I'm up to the 5th Century!

It's been clear that human thinking has really evolved over time. Socrates was an idiot who couldn't win a gradeschool debate contest. His student, Plato would write the dialogues in such a way that the debating opponents would allow Socrates to set the parameters of the argument and then meekly say (over and over again) "Surely it must be so, Socrates! You are right, Socrates!" Grrrr.... So some one would say, "Prove to me that a just man who people think is wicked has a better life than a wicked man who people think is just, Socrates." That's a damn good question. Socrates would then say that it was too hard to study a man because he was small (huh?) and that it is hard to read a small sign far away but easy to read a big one up close but since they were both signs, you could read the big one and know the small one (utter horseshit- that billboard will not tell me what your bumper sticker says) and that therefore by describing a city he can prove that the good man who seems wicked has a better life than the wicked man who seems good... and everyone just says, "Surely it must be so, Socrates." Grrr. By the end of the Republic, Plato/Socrates had "proven" that a perfect society should have no poetry, no fiction and only music chosen by the state.

In "Metaphysics" I expected Aristotle to go into the deeper nature of reality- what is beyond physics? Why must we have physics? Nope. About a hundred pages into it I realized he was asking the Clinton Question- what does "is" mean? Is Mac Mac the martial artist? Or Mac the cop? Or Mac the teacher? Is he a combination of every atom of his being and every second of his history or only his name? Or only what we see right now? Is a chair a chair if it's not being sat in? And is a barrel a chair if someone sits on it... The whole premise of the book could only have arisen in a culture that was just beginning to understand the concept of symbolics. We forget that in many early cultures, the Name is the Thing and there is no clear separation of an object from it's symbol.

I liked the Latin guys better. Lucretius tried to apply common sense to explain the universe with mixed success. Marcus Aurelius was giving advice to his son, and the advice holds up pretty well over the millenia. There's the difference, here. These Roman philosophers were trying to create or collect a system of knowledge that was to be used- not scoring points off of drunk friends. Aurelius cared about his son. Socrates/Plato cared about looking smarter than every one else.

Now St. Augustine and the City of God. I'm half way through and there have been a few moments. I've blogged about two and he makes an assertion that only the Hebrews have ever claimed a divine source for their codes of law. That struck me, since it seems that religion would be a natural for making rules... but I can't think of another society. The Code of Hammurabai, the Athenian laws of Solon, none of the ancient laws that I can think of claim a divine source. Curious. Other than that, the book, so far is little more than a collection of slimy debating tricks and self-serving redefinitions. The arguments he uses against the Roman gods would also destroy the logic of his own religion, if he allowed it to be applied in that directions. His proofs of Christianity rely heavily on changing the meaning of words like 'death' and pretending that any prediction which didn't come true did, actually, but only if all the words mean something else.

Still plowing through, still learning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Aaaaah. That's Nice.

Another good day. My knee is sore, there are scratches on my neck, hands and face. Bruises in my hairline from being pistol whipped at one point. Good day.

Didn't like it much at 0515 this morning. I'm a swing shifter and this early morning stuff is not pleasant. There's not enough coffee to make me happy to start training at 0700, but usually by about nine, I'm into it.

The tactical team worked on basic weapons skills- draws and moving/shooting. Then hours of movement, entries, clearing and searching. I taught classes on high risk restraints and using the restraint board- very technical joint locking and immobilizations. It also brough up one of the great moments of the day, a great moment for any instructor: when you watch someone you taught a skill that you invented and they teach it with absolute authority, with ownership. When you realize that they teach it better than you. Makes me proud.

Sore, though. I don't remember it hurting so much on other days when team members were kneeling on pressure point, extending my spine or controlling my joints. Either they're getting better or I'm getting older. Or both. Or else I've been teaching so much more than playing that my body isn't used to daily extreme pain.

Playing the bad guy, jumping out at the critical time, the moment of entry and being taken down, quick and hard (hence the pistol-whip bruises) by two of the most junior members of the team. Later, as I made entry, one of the role-players went for my weapon and I fired without hesitation. It would have been a good shoot and it is a situation I have trained to reflex and I have never fired in the same way and the same situation with a non-aggressive threat (we use passive surprise sometimes to try to draw a bad shot)... but deep down I'm concerned because it was so reflexive. That's good. It means my conscience is intact.

Finished the day with riot-control movement, which I fondly call "herding rabbits".
Life is good.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Something changed this morning and I don't quite know what. The world feels different today. I dreamt vividly, and I rarely remember my dreams. Further, I dreamt about a friend and since childhood I have never, ever dreamt about people I know- not my wife, not my children, and not my friends.

There's more, but it is vague and subtle. Maybe colors are a little brighter, maybe not. Maybe traffic seems a little less annoying. Spending hours taking care of office duties as the Officer in Charge (OIC) just doesn't feel like the usual boredom tinged hell.

Maybe smelling a change in the wind.

This should be interesting.

Not So Simple

Context is everything. Internal and external context. In strategic terms, goals and parameters are primary aspects of the context. A martial arist asked me what my "favorite attack" was and it's just not that simple. A matrix of context decides what is best in a given moment.

One way to look at it is that there are four very different types of fights one can get in to:
1) You are completely surprised.
2) You suspect something bad is happening but may not be sure when or what.
3) Mutual fight- you know it's coming and you're waiting for it.
4) You initiate the first attack.

That's one aspect of the matrix. Your favorite technique in the early stages of an agreed on fight (say backfist/side kick combo) is much different than your best option when a bottle is broken over the back of your head or when the creepy guy is standing too close and reaching under his jacket or when you've decided to take out a threat when his guard is down.

In the second aspect, your best option changes depending on the goal you have: Do you have to get the mental patient in soft restraints with minimal harm? Are you willing/allowed to do serious damage? To kill?

This simple 4x3 matrix gives twelve separate situations with different solutions. In only one of them is a backfist/sidekick combo a good choice.

There is an old saying that if you give a child a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Martial artists fall into this too. Many, many different things fall under the general heading of violence: getting shot at as a civillian is different than on duty; conducting a military raid is different than getting mugged; a MMA tournament is different than a gang rape; being taken hostage is different than getting caught in a riot. Somewhere, somehow martial artists practice a purified and sanitized version of one aspect of this very big animal and convince themselves that they know it. That they understand it. That their MA hammer is the solution in a world of nails.

You see it when they ask for or offer simple solutions to vague situations. I want to be clear- the good answers, the good actions, tend to be simple and efficient. But it is a simplicity that stands out starkly against the chaos yet is largely dictated by the chaos. Simple, but not that simple.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Writing Down the Bones

Mac wants a group of us to meet Saturday to put the finish on the next series of DT courses. His challenge is to create something that a beginner or expert can profit from; that works off their natural motion and fighting styles instead of trying to clone the instructors; that will give concrete results even for the ones who will only train once or twice a year; that is expandable and adaptable.

We can do it. We will do this. We have been doing this long enough, comparing the purified mechanics and mathematical strategies of the dojo and the ring with the sweat and smell and chaos of Reception and the road. We know where the middle ground is. We know what is important. Between us, we have a good handle on what is real.

The hardest part is that we can see multiple ways to do it- we don't have time for repetetive technique and experimentation but we could teach a principles based course- "Here is how and why people fall down... now go try it." Or a perception based course, "Feel your lines of stability and weakness as well as his and move from your stability to his weakness... feel it." We could do a pure stress innoculation course, "When the blindfold comes off deal with what you see, whether it is a lost child or an attacking rottweiler." We could mix them.

The hardest part will be writing it down. We know that in real life any training is a matter of percentage points, not answers. No one comes out of any course guaranteed to prevail. But our bosses want clean cut learning objectives: "At the completion of this course, the student will be able to demonstrate the inside wristlock, outside wrist lock..." When what we want is for the student to have the skill and confidence to snatch anything that's available, to recognize the opportunity for a wrist lock by feel, apply it and if it fails switch to something else.

That's what fighting really is, isn't it? Recognizing what you can do, doing it and doing something else if it doesn't work. It's a pretty good plan for most of life.


Just got the word that in fiscal 2004 we had 112 incidents of staff assault in our system. We have a relatively small system, with beds for 2000 criminals and about 400 officers spread over three shifts and "special assignments"- working desk jobs, transports or Court Services.

Don't have the statistics for how serious they were, but a few years ago the union kept track and recorded 37 officers sent to the hospital in one year.

Statistics are fun to play with- one officer in four was attacked, one in ten hospitalized; an attack happens every third day, a hospitalization every ten...

But statistics are bullshit. Each one has a name, a family and a story.

I'm not going to go into some sob story and start whining. We spend eight hours a day dealing with criminals. The only perfectly safe way to do the job is to NOT do the job, find one of those 'special' jobs at a desk and try to ride out your career as far from the criminals as you can get. We chose this job and most do it well and professionally.

We are the epitomy of the "kindler, gentler" corrections. We are trained to talk and rewarded for skills in preventing incidents. Ten years ago, there were about a dozen staff assaults a year and they were more serious- generally the officer would be hospitalized and if he was, it was a sure bet the inmate would be also. Now, even with one of our own down, the uses of force tend to be professional and the inmate is rarely hurt.

Twelve versus a hundred twelve. Heavy handed vs. kindler and gentler. A correlation? Nah. Statistics are bullshit.

The training unit seems to be the only group stepping up to do something about this increase. We've been designing "defensive tactics" around counter-assault and ambush survival concepts. Firearms has changed from just qualifying to actually training. Simulation training has stepped up to bring Use of Force concepts into real time, speed-of-life usefulness. Classes are offered on mindset and hostage survival (But the class on emotional survival was the most popular). The tactical team, too, has been making very deliberate advances in training, transforming from a cell-extraction team to a full-service operational and hostage rescue team.

The rest of the agency seems oblivious. As long as you are careful to think of them as numbers, as long as you keep telling yourself that statistics are bullshit, as long as the only line staff you talk to are the people hiding in the desk jobs as far away from criminals as they can get.. you can believe that all is well. That nothing has changed.

You see, it's only a body count if you count them. Or if they count.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Time, victorious

Big Daddy was raised in the South, surrounded by crime and violence, dirt poor. He didn't become a criminal. If you asked him why, he would either say 'good parents' or 'the grace of God'. He wouldn't take any credit himself- but he was a smart, tough-minded and dedicated son of a bitch. Deep down, he always thought that criminals were losers and he would never, ever be a loser. But he knows criminals.

He was something of a legend when I started working for the agency. Unbelievably strong, quick smile, good talker- he looked like a bowling ball with huge arms and short legs. He rarely fought: with his reputation, power and ferocious grin of battle-joy when he thought a fight was coming most of the tough guys wilted at the sight.

Something big has changed in the last two years. He lost a lot of weight, even though most of his mass was power-lifter muscle, not fat. He dwindled down to the size of a regular human. He started forgetting things- basic things about the job, things he'd already done or asked a few moments before. Lately, he has stood passively letting me as a (relatively) junior sergeant take the lead on crises in his area. Recently in simulation training I watched as he looked to his partner, a brand new deputy, and followed his partner's lead rather than go with his own initiative. Deep down, he knows that something is wrong.

We cover for him at work. There's a lot of sweat and blood and history shared with this man over the decades and we respect him. Whatever is going on (and we're all thinking dementia/senility but no one wants to say the words) it isn't his fault. This forgetful sometimes lost-looking old man isn't HIM, this isn't Big Daddy.

I'd like to believe that I'm writing this out of compassion, telling his story, but this is really about fear. There is an old Norse legend where Thor loses a wrestling match to an old woman. The woman was Time. Nobody beats Time. Right now, I'm watching a legend turn into a fragile old man. Someday it will be my turn.

I remember the security guard at the docks who turned out to have been OSS in WWII. The old, old jail guard who'd been a decorated ace in the Pacific theater, someone who I had read about in books and didn't recognize the name because this tiny old man couldn't have been the same as the dauntless hero.

That's our destiny, all of us who live long enough- to make our mark in the world when and how we can and then to eventually watch our bodies and often our minds fail until we are no longer recognizable as the men who made the mark.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Read about durien many years ago. It's described as an asian fruit that smells like rotten flesh and tastes wonderful and sweet. Smell and taste seem so intrinsically tied that it made me very, very curious. Today at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant I noticed a durien milkshake on the menu. Good day for new things.

I've been coming to this restaurant since it opened. I've watched the waitress, the owner's daughter, grow up from a tiny girl with an attitude to a tiny woman with an attitude. Today she wore a T-shirt "Don't give me your attitude, I've got one of my own" that, combined with the nose stud, probably gives her parents coniptions.

"Have you decided?"
"Nope. What's really good that I've never ordered?"
"You never order the fish. The fish stew or the seafood vermicelli." She didn't hesitate at all.
"Fish stew. What's darien like?"
She made a face. "Not everybody likes it. It tastes okay, but it smells awful."
"I'll try it."
She shrugged, wrote it down and stalked off.

The fish stew came in a big bowl. Pho broth with noodles, vegetables and a lot of processed, pressed fish: fish meatballs, fish noodles, fish discs and krab; and a nutty vegetable that isn't in the beef pho that was very good, nutty and smoky. If I liked fish better, it would have been wonderful.

The durien came in a glass with a tight plastic cover that said "Happy Birthday" with a lot of kanji all around, a straw stuck through the cover and the wrapper still over the exposed end of the straw. I'm guessing that durien milkshakes are a birthday tradition somewhere and it was pre-packaged.

It was too cold to really smell, just a faint, unpleasant odor of rotting vegetation with something else. It didn't smell like rotten meat, but it wasn't exactly appetizing either. Took a healthy swig and it wasn't too bad. Sort of. The stuff was SWEET. There was a faint rotten taste mixed in with it, but the sweetness totally overwhelmed it.

Ah hah. Sweet is one of the tastes that the tongue can sense without smell, as they told us in fifth grade health class. Makes sense, sugar is powerfully flavorful but you can barely smell the stuff. Durien probably would taste as bad as it smelled if it wasn't for the natural sweetness of the fruit drowning it out. Mystery solved, at least to my satisfaction. If I liked sweet things, I might have finished the shake.

Durien belches, on the other hand, are bad. Right up there with pickled chicken feet belches, but that's another story.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Watching a Train Wreck

For a long time, the dumbest crook I ever dealt with was this little blond kid. He'd obviously seen too many movies about how tough guy gangstas acted, but he couldn't pull it off. The two specific incidents I remember: Walking into his cell while he was at lunch I saw a piece of paper on his desk "Note to self- When Miller is here he searches rooms, so... " followed by a list of all of his contraband and where he should hide it. Note in plain sight. Idiot.

The second time was more dangerous- he's a little white guy in the court holding cell with a good number of mostly black inmates and he walks up to another white inmate and loudly strikes up a conversation, "Hey, are you familiar with the nigger-jew conspiracy that's destroying America?" I got him out of there before he got his ass beat. Moron.

Saw him again last night. Ten years or more later. He hasn't aged well, drugs are bad that way. He's gone from being a blank-eyed, talkative idiot kid to a shifty-eyed talkative guy with bad skin and bad judgment.

He's very happy. He's back in jail but that's just been a little mistake. He's been clean and sober for over a month. He's met the perfect woman. She's schizophrenic, sees things that aren't there and hears voices and she's a heroin addict, but she's been in treatment and has been off heroin for seven weeks. She may have stopped suddenly screaming for no reason, he's not sure since he hasn't seen her since he came to jail. That was her one habit that bothered him.

He's in love. He's planning their life together. It's not a plan in the ordinary sense of the word, like with steps and goals and all that. Pretty much he says they'll stay clean and stay together and everything will work out. That's his plan. He wants me to be happy for him. I'm polite and wish him luck, but it would take either a miracle or a huge amount of thought and hard work to change the collision course his life is on, and a miracle is the more likely event.

In My Element

Doing a Graveyard-shift overtime in booking. It feels like coming home.

We moved several years ago to a wonderful house. The house, which we call either "Baraka" or "Blackberry Manor" was very far from booking and relatively close to our medium-security facility. I gave up Max and booking for a half hour of commute, traded boredom for an extra hour a day with my family. It's a good trade and I don't regret it...but...

Overtime tonight in the old place with my old crew. Arresting officers calling for assistance in getting a big tweaker with martial arts experience out of the car; a drunk on the counter wanting to go off; warrant arrest in the lobby; on the edge of running out of beds, juggling count; computer searches to find out exactly where a sex offender has to go to register... all in the first 90 minutes.

The walls stink. Concentrated fresh inmate smells a lot like the reptile house at the zoo. It's the smell of many, many people- dirty people with the adrenaline sweat of fear and anger. There's an intermittent pounding from from people on drugs (most of whom wisely chose not to fight when officers were present) pounding on the doors of their cells and screaming insults, threats and challenges.

This is a good crew, this is my old crew and they smile at the threats and let the screamers tire themselves out. Then they'll go in and talk. We probably won't have to use any force tonight, but if we do, that's okay, too. This is my crew and any force will be quick, decisive and controlled. No injuries on either side.

The crew is carrying me a bit tonight. Some of the paperwork has changed and my knee made an ugly popping noise in jujutsu this morning. It's sore but I can walk and hide the limp.

It feels like home. I feel better and more alive here than I do anywhere except maybe on the mat.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Concrete Minds

I like the Meyers/Briggs personality inventory. I have a degree in Experimental Psychology and, frankly, was never impressed with the psychological and personality tests I was trained in. What does a 140 IQ mean? Does it mean the same thing if you can't remember to look both ways when you cross the street or can't communicate well enough to keep a relationship going?

Meyers Briggs (MB) winds up with 16 general personality types. It seems that the rarer types are the most impressed with the test- I don't think like most people so tests designed for most people never helped explained very much. The MB in a few paragraphs described how I think, that the method of thinking was rare (it had never occured to me that there was ANY criteria beyond practicality- I thought the whole world thought the way I did but sucked at it) and explained every major issue I'd ever had with people, jobs or the world in a way that I could use.

There are four dimensions in the test. They have clumsy names that don't necessarily mean what they do in every other context. The first dimension is Extroversion/Introversion. Not what it sounds like, exactly. The simple question is "When you need to recharge your batteries, do you seek out company or solitude?" The second is Intuition/Sensing. I don't know how they chose those words. Intuition means that you trust your own judgment over the judgment of another. Everyone says they do, but few people are very resistant to peer pressure and most will follow the advice of someone who they believe to be an expert even if it contradicts their own experience. The third is Thinking/Feeling- are you more comfortable with a decision that you can logically explain or one that feels right? The last is Judging/Perception- do you like finishing things or the process of doing?

I told you the names were stupid.

I want to nominate a fifth dimension. Something that addresses the fact that some people are comfortable with rules and clear-cut distinctions and some function happily and well in chaos. Maybe the R/C dimension, Rules/Chaos.

We did ConSim yesterday. The students come into class, are armored up and given a bunch of toys- real guns that fire paint pellets, foam batons, pepperspray without the pepper part, tasers without the batteries. Then they walk into a scenario with hardly any information- anything from a lost child to being ambushed at a mini mart to a fender-bender with angry citizens or a hostage situation happening right in front of them. They'll deal with role players acting as criminals, former criminals, citizens, lawyers and reporters.

The entire purpose of the class is to get the adrenaline pumping and have them make a decision in a fraction of a second on partial information... just like real life. Then they have to explain the decision to the instructors and other students, just like we were a jury.

Like any other agency, ours is a bureaucracy and runs on paper and rules. Bureaucracies need to have clarity and definite 'right' and 'wrong' solutions to specific and definite problems and they breed and nurture people who feel the same way.

However, we are a Law Enforcement Agency, and that means that we deal with criminals and we deal with violence. There is very little on this world that is more chaotic or less cut-and-dried than violence.

One student in particular worried me. In each scenario, he wanted THE right answer. As much as we would explain that what the students had done was A good answer or A poor one, he wasn't satisfied. He was clearly horrified that two different people could be in the same situation and because they perceived it differently they would handle it differently and BOTH could be right... or wrong. All math problems have one right answer. There is one most efficient way to split wood. A bridge made in a certain way of certain materials can handle a specific weight. There is a right tool to pound a nail. An act is against the law or it is not...maybe? Do you believe that? An act is right or wrong...maybe? Depending?

The class pushed him , I hope, to realize that we are paid and paid well to go into chaos, make it as right as we can as quick as we can with minimum collateral damage. We make decisions in an eye blink with only what we know in the instant. Those decisions may affect the lives of many people, some to death. It is the essence of the job. We do this specifically and stand up to inquests and grand juries and civil suits and Internal Affairs investigations specifically so that other people don't have to and have the luxury to believe that there is a right answer to all questions.

He was a concrete mind looking at a fluid world. Honestly, it repelled him and it repelled him even more that some functioned well and thrived there.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Doing a Good Job

Yesterday, I was pissed at doing a good job. I like working and keeping busy and solving problems. Side effect is that I get most of the must-do special projects that come up. Normally, that makes me happy. The regular job is good- talking to inmates and officers, preventing things from blowing up or jumping on them when they just start to flare or dealing with it when it goes entirely to hell- but if you've been doing it well for awhile it doesn't usually take a lot of time or effort. Doing the minimum required I have literally finished all the required tasks for an eight hour shift of both a sergeant AND a lieutenant in 36 minutes. So 1) I never do the minimum and 2) I welcome extra projects.

Sometimes it bothers me. Usually because a sensitive and important thing that should have been handled immediately has been held for sixteen hours, waiting for me to come on shift. That's incompetent and potentially dangerous and makes things harder. It annoys me.

But I get pissed when it's a made-up busy work job, completely without meaning. For instance, doing something that you did a month ago (when it was needed) just because a piece of equipment that would have been useful then has now arrived. Just off the top of my head, replacing a bunch matresses not because they need replacing, oh, no, you did that last month- but replacing them because you now have a dumpster that would have been really handy last month.

Sorry. I'm being petty.

Today was the good side of it: "Rory, we need another instructor for ConSim." So I got to help run a class on street survival and get shot a couple of times.

"Sarge, we've got one going off. We're going to need the taser." But I got to talk her down.

"Hey, one of the psych guys is refusing to take his meds- can you talk to him?" Done.

None of these were from my assigned sector. My sector was quiet. It usually is. I like doing a good job.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The City of God

Just started reading St. Augustine's "The City of God". At this point I know little- that it is nearly 1600 years old, that it was written as a logical defense and explanation of the Christian point of view, and that it has been a foundation, like Plato and Aristotle, for much of the thinking that has followed it and shaped our culture.

Barely into it and two things have struck me as particularly well done.

Augustine asks the ancient question of why bad things happen to good people. Part of his reasoning is a sophistry- if some punishment/reward isn't withheld until final judgment, faith in god would be unnecessary. But then he says something great- that when events and people collide it is the person, not the event, that makes it a good or bad thing.

His example was olives that under pressure are purified into oil, whereas the olive leaf that falls into the same press and is subject to the same forces is mangled. You see this in life every day. Two people lose a loved one and one becomes helpless, the other feels grief fully and moves on, caring about other people, becoming wiser and stronger.

Any potentially negative event is treated like this. Some decide that it is proof of their disadvantage and inability to succeed, some learn and grow. The ones who learn will always be stronger and wiser. The ones who don't may pretend to be, but it is cynicism, fear disguised as world-weariness.

Here's the training question: Can you teach the ones who don't do this naturally to become the strong? I worry because I doubt anyone consciously chooses to reject their own experience. In other words, even the most cynical professional loser, one who has never held a job or kept a relationship going and keeps friends only by dint of shared addictions, this person thinks that he IS growing and learning. Or does he?

The second Augustinian moment for me was when he discussed the rebuke. When is it okay to tell someone else that he is wrong? That he is behaving badly? It's a powerful expectation in our society that you should "mind your own business". We have been heavily indoctrinated that bad is only bad from one point of view and it is unAmerican to interfere with another's choice... but this indoctrinated reluctance to speak up, to "rebuke" has led to a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil climate that encourages and enables a huge amount of victimization.

A friend recently attended a police/community partnership meeting in California. She sent me the notes of the meeting, which was all about getting the officers to become closer to the community and understand the community and be sensitive to the opinions and feelings of the community. There was never anything about the community coming to understand the needs of the officers. If people really want crime to go down in high-crime areas it will be the people who live there, not the police, that will make it happen. The citizens must make it clear that crime is not tolerated, they must stand up and say "That's wrong." And then they must press charges and then they must testify... and do so proudly. They must rebuke.

When there is less stigma attached to lying to provide an alibi for a serial rapist than for being seen to talk to the police, there is a problem that goes very deep, and it is not a problem that police can or should fix.

So Augustines rebuke should not be done in anger. It should never be withheld out of fear. It is an attempt to make things better, to give the rebuked person a chance to change and grow. Maybe they cannot see the harm. It is, as he explains it, literally an act of love.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fun Weekend

Kami writes fantasy fiction. Kami draws and paints. Once a year, she brings me to the Oregon Science Fiction Convention (Orycon). While she schmoozes with editors and publishers and other writers and shows and sells her artwork at the artshow, I usually am tasked to stand at her side and look ornamental. I spend my own time watching people.

Over the years I've met fascinating and fun people there- writers, martial artists, veterans, dancers, scientists, technogeeks and fans. Some I only get to see once a year and it has become a tradition of sorts. Other things have changed over the years, too. Some time ago I quit reading fiction. Too many real things, more intense, more real, more important had started to fill that need. As life turned into an adventure story with all the messiness and ugly endings, I found it difficult to take fictional adventure with clean plot lines and pat endings.

At some point seeing a well dressed man with pointed teeth caps changed in my head. Instead of thinking, "Cool! He's pretending to be a vampire!" I found myself thinking, "What kind of boring life do you have when it's an upgrade to pretend to be a dead guy?"

A couple of years ago, Mark and I were sitting at the coffee shop- two regular guys dressed in jeans and t-shirts surrounded by Klingons, angels, fairies and goths. Out loud I said, "I'm not into ostentatious display. I don't even read fiction. Why am I here?"

Mark didn't hesitate, "Because it's fun."

Dead right. Where's the fun in hanging around with people who think and dress and act like you do? There are panels where authors, movie makers and scientists talk about life and fiction. They are dreaming out loud to people who share some of the same dreams and the sincerity is palpable. There are panels where you can learn technique from commercial artists and listen to folk musicians. Learn a bit about the world of publishing and what is going on in Hollywood with different shows and projects.

Parties where you can sample a variety of Canadian hard cider, a dance where you will see a real chainmail bikini... and corsets everywhere. Sometimes a good thing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Truth is/isn't relative

People who talk about the truth are rarely talking about the same thing. I asked a friend if truth was relative. She said, very firmly, "All truth is relative." It's one of the few things that we have ever disagreed on. I feel, by definition, that if something is relative, it can't be truth. That seems to me to be a tautology. Though some things can be closer to the truth than other things, I don't believe that there are degrees of truth. One is closer to zero then two, but only zero is zero.

Whenever I have a disagreement with someone I consider intelligent, it's an opportunity to explore. So I asked the question of Roz and K and they agreed with my friend. Puzzling. Then Roz started explaining and made it much clearer.

We all have mental maps of our reality. Going back to Socrates' cave and shadow analogy, people have discussed the fact that we don't experience much of life directly. When we see a rock, we see photons bounced off the rock and form an image in electrochemical nets in our brains. There is no rock in our head (at least not literally).

For most people, the mental map is real. In many ways, more real to them than the world it is trying to describe. (My personal definition of bigotry is when a person refuses to change their mental map in the presence of clear evidence that it is wrong.)

I've never felt that my mental map or world view was real. It's just the best working model I have right now. So the only things I accept as 'true' are those very, very few instances where the map has a 1:1 correlation with reality. Diamond scratches talc, never the other way around, regardless of situation, person or point of view; this is not relative, and so I consider it true. So, by my definition, truth is very rare and never relative.

Ah, but if you define truth as a scalar measuring how closely your map aligns with the world then truth is relative, and there are "great truths" which move your map vastly closer to reality and someone is always closer to reality than you on some point and there is an unreachable but beautiful goal of "Universal Truth" where the map and the world are one. That's what the seekers search for and my friend is definitely a seeker after Truth.

I seek too, though. Life is a quest for experiences and challenges to my beliefs and expectations. I like testing my map. I like re-writing it. It gets closer to reality all the time, but it will never become reality. Reality wouldn't fit in my head. Especially since sometimes I'm the stupidest person in the room.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Half Mast

The flags were at half mast today. I usually don't notice, they're on a different end of the building. It's been a weird year for flags and flag protocol. The political jurisdiction that I work for is both extremely political and extremely ignorant of proper protocols, so in the last year the flag has been at half mast for some very odd things.

Today it was at half mast for Rosa Parks. A little late, maybe, but it makes good sense to me. She was an important figure in our nation, history and ideals.

We all know, every thinking, feeling one of us knows, that it's wrong to treat little old ladies shabbily. Some people felt and maybe still feel that skin color can erase this simple moral fact. It can't. Treat old folks nicely. That's an order.

Mrs. Parks made us realize that some people weren't doing this simple right thing if they could use race as an excuse. It made us look at other places where the right things weren't being done and race was an excuse.

Have you ever read "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? Uncle Tom gets a bad rap in modern black culture, but it is undeserved. Between the 19th century writing style and the religious platitudes it was a hard book for me to read but it was powerful. Stowe set up Uncle Tom as an impossibly good man- kind, generous, protective, loving and confident that he was in the hands of a loving god. The she stripped away his family and his life, and brutally murdered him at the hands of another and much lesser man.

It is a ruthless piece of tear jerking literature aimed at and successful at provoking a reaction. She pointed out that the simple moral truth, that killing a man is bad, that killing a very, very good and kind man is reprehensible and deserves justice did not apply in that world and at that time- provided the man was of a certain color and the murderer had a piece of paper describing the dead man as property.

It was an obvious moral truth brought out into the light. Something had to be done and in the bloodiest war in American history 600,000 died and the nation was brought to the edge of destruction to make it right.

Rosa deserves her flag.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All is Well

The first words I heard this morning were, "I love the feel of skin on skin." That's a sure sign of a good day.

Worked out with Mac early this morning. He's working on my mind, pushing me towards a purer intention. I respect him hugely and find myself making the beginners mistake again and again, trying to guess what the 'right' response is. A real combat is easier because I deal with the action and it never even occurs to me what the threat thinks of me. I care what Mac thinks.

Drew was back in class today, just returned from Katrina relief duty, picking up the reins of work and school and relationships and thinking about the future and the recent past. "What's normal?" was the big question today. We worked out for an hour and went to Hooters. Terrible food. Good conversation.

The rest of the free time today was spent on the book. Good times with good people. All is right with my little world.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Her eyes were brilliant blue when I first met her and then green, grey-green and once vivid scarlet. It was a month before I realized that her eyes were the color of polished steel and truly reflected the colors around her: Blue sky, blue eyes. Grassy meadow, green eyes. Holding hands wading in the ocean, stormy grey and green.

Her hair that first year was mahogany in the winter, honey blond after only a few days of summer sun.

Her shoulders were strong and smooth, like a swimmer. Legs tanned and powerful. Trim body.

She has full lips positioned between a slavic nose and a tiny chin. In the right light or in the right mood she can look like a chipmonk, a muppet or the very soul of classical beauty.

With all that beauty, the first thing I noticed was her calm grace. Everything around her appears stately and serene. People feel happy and safe just to be around her, and they share more and grow more in her light.

That was nineteen years ago. This morning, once again, I marveled at her beauty. After almost two decades it is still a thrill to touch her. Her scent means 'home' to me.

We are older now. There has been a lot of time, a lot of pain and triumph. A lot of blood and tears and laughter. She has held me when I only wanted to sit in the darkness and rock and hum; she has listened when I was trying to get things out of my head and into words that were based on experiences no one should have. She has been at my side at funerals and she has made love to me while blood dripped from wounds in my chest and arm.

We are older. Her hair is a beautiful silver, though she's not yet forty. I'm getting thin on top. We're both a little fatter, a little slower and much, much stronger and deeper. Like our love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Grasping at Illusions

Saw something over the weekend that I've seen many, many times before.

There was a martial arts instructor of great skill in his specialty- under the right circumstances, he could dodge and send people sailing with very little effort. It bothered me, because the operative concept was 'under the right circumstances'. If someone rushed him from at least two long paces away and flinched past their own point of balance, his techniques would work. Otherwise, not so well. They didn't work, generally, on the other instructors there and he had brought his own student so that he could demonstrate successfully.

I don't think this was conscious. I met the instructor and talked. I genuinely liked and respected him. I believe that in his own mind, his techniques did work on the other instructors or, if they didn't, he attributed it to our vast skill. I don't think for a second that he realized that he had taught his student to flinch in a certain way so that the techniques would work.

The two long paces bothered me more, because he espoused that attacks happen exclusively at that range, and they don't. He set me at that distance and asked how I would attack. I smiled, walked up, put an arm around his shoulders and fired a knee into his thigh. He laughed and said, "I'd never let you get that close." He just had. Without a beat, he turned back to the lesson.

He had superb skill and he (or his instructors) had rewritten the map of the world so that the techniques would work. Since the techniques required two paces, attacks must come at two paces, right? Otherwise the techniques would have been designed differently. Right?

Imagine studying something for a decade or more that you will never actually use. You have worked to perfect it, but without a touchstone to reality, how do you know what perfection looks like?

He told me about a serious assault he had been subjected to- it was bloody and messy, an ambush at close quarters with lumber and boots. It didn't happen at two paces, or from the front. The two he could see were closer than he believes he would ever let anyone get and he didn't see the third.

I assume that sometime after this incident he found his martial art, fell in love with it and found great comfort and a feeling of safety in its practice. Does he ever think about that attack within the context of what he teaches? How do illusions become so powerful that they seem more real and affect beliefs more than an event as horrific as the one he experienced?

An Adult Moment

Yesterday was tactical team training. We crammed a lot into one day- entries, vehicle assaults and recertification on a variety of less-lethal weapon platforms. How's that for jargon? Less-lethal describes new technologies in law enforcement designed to incapacitate a threat with less chance of doing serious injury. Not no chance, just less chance. These are things like bean-bag rounds for shotguns. The 'platform' is what the LL round is fired from.

Anyway, due to bitter experience, I'm largely skeptical about the effect of LL rounds in real life. Rubber bullets have blown holes in people and bean bags have bounced off with no effect in my direct experience... I've heard of other failures often.

I'm not going to get into a debate about the efficacy of LL technology. The citizens want something as likely to put down a crazy, violent, drugged threat as a handgun without the messy death and vicarious guilt part. Businesses are trying to fill this gap.

Back to the subject- I trust things based on my experience. We have a round that we haven't used yet- essentialy a shell for a 40mm grenade launcher filled with .60 cal rubber balls. I've been curious about its effects largely because I've been less than a yard away from a flash/bang type grenade that also threw rubber balls and never felt them.

So, during a break in training I found myself staring down the barrel of a 40 mm from 15 yards. I had a helmet with face shield on my head and another helmet held over my groin (I'm not completely stupid).

"Ready?" the Deputy called as she sighted in.
"Ready." I said and lowered my head so the face shield would cover my throat but I could still see.

Then, for just a second, I wondered, "Why am I doing this?" It was an adult moment. Very grown up, very mature. They happen sometimes. I had one just before my fourth jump out of an airplane. Just before I got married.

I always got over it. Got married, jumped without hesitation... and saw the flash as the 40mm fired.

It stung a little bit. There are two welts on my arms and I felt a third just barely when it hit my body armor. Oh well.

The adult moment is very much about fear, sure, but also something else. People don't change or grow by doing the mature, sensible thing and staying in their comfort zones. Kids are growing all the time. I will be too, learning and experimenting and pushing through fear and pain to the big world outside the zone. There's way more world outside my comfort zone than in it, and the world is full of cool stuff.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Most of the writing lately has been about combatives and insight. Time to let that go for awhile, let the dust settle.

Everything is put aside for half a day tomorrow to spend with my family. I last saw the kids Tuesday afternoon. I saw K last night when I got home, but she was asleep; saw her again, blurrily this morning when she said goodbye and I was mostly asleep.

Burned two personal days to get what should have been four days off, but half of Saturday will be spent driving to Seattle, Sunday will be teaching a seminar. Monday should be working out with the Emerald City Judo club followed by the long drive home and Tuesday will be spent training with the tactical team on less-lethal weapons technology, recertifying in five or six systems. Monday I should stay in Seattle, but I'll drive home Sunday night so that I can spend one day with the family and working around the house.

Four days off, a day and a half spent with those I love best.

Sounds like whining, but it isn't. I will enjoy every second of that time and only regret that I can't do more things, do two or six or a hundred things at once.

No time to type more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Big Three

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know how much time I spend on training and planning training and figuring out what training is. I work and largely live in a violent environment, so the focus is and always has been on dealing with violence. Three different threads came together today, the big three. It is still fresh in my mind and it will take awhile before I am sure how powerful this is, but it's big.

AWARENESS, as a training system comes from Mac. At the most basic level it is awareness of what your body can do, awareness of what the threat is, what the threat is doing and what you can do to the threat and awareness of the context and environment. In this mode you learn technique not so that you can repeat them, but so that you recognize their application, precursors and opportunities to apply them. This broad view applies not only to technique but to the next levels also- tactics, strategy and deeper beliefs and goals.

INITIATIVE as a system comes from Jeff, a deputy US Marshall. You do what needs to be done without hesitation. It doesn't matter if it is not what you planned or things aren't going well. In each instant, something needs to be done and you do it. At the technique level, this is acting decisively and without hesitation or telegraph regardless of the technique used. At the tactical level it is explosive entry. At the strategic level it is "shock & awe". At the meta level it is deciding what is worth fighting, dying or killing for long before the subject comes up and acting decisively when the line is crossed.

The third leg of this tripod is PERMISSION. I've written about it before. You must let yourself act. There is an old article, I believe from the Utne reader about "what happens when violence calls and politeness answers'" in which the author describes her rape and at each stage that she could have acted did not because it 'would be rude'. She wanted to slam her door in the stranger's face, but that would be rude... and he pushed past her into the apartment. Permission is powerful and huge, especially in combination with the other two systems. I'm still working on how pervasive a power, a crutch and a blindfold it can be. Probably will be for life.

Initiative and awareness in combination allow the predator dynamic. They allow the explosive counter-attack that can save a victim from a hopeless situation. Together, they allow for devastating and explosive applications of skill that push the very edge of what is possible.

Permission and awareness go beyond that. I've already written about the agreements and subconscious human dynamics that affect violent behavior. The awareness of which are artificial and permission to break them combine to access a nearly superhuman ability. It is not that you can suddenly do what humans can't, it's that you can do what humans choose to believe they can't do. Serious, skilled combative martial artists have said that small joint locks can't be used in a real fight, but I've done it, even one-handed on threats who outweighed me by a bunch. You will be told that if you go up unarmed against a threat with a knife, you will be cut, yet I stand at five without a scratch. More importantly is context- the rule is that you cannot take someone down who is in excited delerium without a mass of officers or good weapons... but not only have I done it a couple of times I've talked even more down- I was aware that the context (excited delerium produces a frenzied rage and inability to listen or reason), close quarters etc dictated a certain kind of response ONLY if I agreed. I gave myself permission NOT to agree and turned fights into talks. CAVEAT- NOT every time. Nothing is 100%.

Permission and initiative combine to produce a force of nature. This is inhuman and hard to describe. You do what needs to be done without regard for whether it is possible, because 9/10ths of your "impossibilities" are imaginary. Strange that a 110 pound girl believes that she can't hurt a 200 pound man, but an eight-pound cat (especially if you dump a bucket of water on it) can and it will do so without hesitation. A small woman can punch hard enough to break ribs and it is far less a matter of 'know-how' than it is of deciding to injure and then letting herself do it. This, really, is what has allowed me to go up against PCP freaks- in the end, the critical difference between me and them is that they have completely lost their allegiance to regular human suppositions about what is and isn't true, is and isn't possible. They lose theirs through chemicals and sometimes I can give mine up and even the playing field.

None of this is new, in a way. I've done each piece of this at times- I've just never seen it before. Never looked at the negative space of my actions. I very rarely talk about the "twilight zone" of violence, the incredibly weird things that happen, some seemingly impossible. One of those stories is about the time I saw a threat start to punch at my partner. Everything went in slow motion. I took two long steps, shoved my partner out of the way and caught the fist in mid-air. By conventional wisdom, this was impossible. Action beats reaction, and I didn't start to move until after the threat had started the punch. In addition, you can't take two long steps and push someone out of the way in the time it takes someone to throw a short left hook. But that one time I did. That experience has always been in the twilight zone- how the hell did that happen? How strange is that. Looking at it from this perspective, it was just permission and initiative and the question becomes "Why don't I do that all the time?"

I do know the answer to that question, BTW.

Even more, assuming this is right and as important as I feel it is right now... can it be taught and transmitted? I can give you permission to act and show you how a lock or a pin is an agreement and that works pretty well, but how well does it work when I tell you that you don't need to be a victim? That you can change your world. That you can do the impossible every day.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Breathing is like walking- everyone does it and very few people do it well. It's also one of those subjects where people focus on the minutea to the exclusion of the purpose. The purpose is to get oxygen into your system and carbon dioxide out... and often the expulsion of carbon dioxide is the most important.

It's good to have air in your lungs and let it out when taking a hit to the body.

Some people contend that breathing is the only thing that is both autonomic and voluntary, the only automatic thing that we can consciously control. That's partially true, but it's also been shown that you can control most of the others- heart beat, skin temperature, etc. if you can accurately and easily monitor them. It just takes practice.

Concentrating on breathing out in short, sharp gasps isn't just for lamaze- you can use it to stave off other automatic reactions, too.

Sound travels in air, and breathing requires air. Breath and sound are commingled on many levels. Kiai isn't always audible and people make a big deal about the "spirit shout" but ki means breath just as much as it does 'spirit' and in both senses is cognate with prana and pneuma. Breathing people still have their spirit inside them.

Long, slow breaths in through the mouth, out through the nose help lower the heart rate and ease pain.

The connection of breath and spirit ties breathing to meditation. In through the nose for so many seconds, hold without strain for so many seconds, exhale for so many seconds, hold with empty lungs for so many seconds. As thoughts intrude you acknowledge them and let them go until the world is a cycle of inhale, hold, exhale and hold. Then you get beyond even that.

A short, sharp breath with a sharp, short consonant-rich bark is very useful for triggering explosive speed.

Old style hypnotists would survey their audiences and then change the pattern of their own breathing. After a few minutes they would note which of the potential subjects had subconsciously mimiced the new breathing pattern. These would be the test subjects.

If you are in the middle of a fight and you can smell, you're breathing right and you are triggering your own predator mindset.

Friday, October 14, 2005


A little fuzzy right now with a low-grade headache. Our agency is nervous about the concept but finally we got permission to teach "vascular restraints" to the officers. We call them vascular restraints because the word 'strangling' is too scary. Under either name, I've been on the receiving end of about forty today. I'd really like to blame the strangles for my present headache and odd mood, but it has more to do with running on less than five hours of sleep (again!).

One of my team members came back to work today. Her knee was injured pretty severely in training and her doctor wants her to stay at home, but she's too bored and too stubborn for that. She's the only female member of the tactical team and she's well aware of it. She trained very hard to make the team and did so, only to find herself the smallest member, physically weakest, not the best shot... but she's stubborn. I'd rather have stubborn backing me up than strong. But I worry that she'll take her identity the only female team member and push past where she should go. That she'll go on an Op and jump in before she's ready. She's young, more afraid that some one will say "she couldn't hack it" than that she'll be walking with a cane before she reaches forty.

She's getting a lot from the team and giving a lot to it. She works hard and brings an energy to the team that's different when it's just a boys club. She makes everyone slightly uncomfortable, which delights my heart as a team leader- I don't want them comfortable.

Even more, I don't want there to be a career-ending injury.

Her knee is weak and I know she'll work her ass off to get it strong. She's fought so long not to be the weakest on the team and now there's another obstacle. On top of that, she needs to make the decision of what to do based on what's best for her- the training, cameraderie and cachet of being a member of an elite team versus the possibility of more damage. I can't help her with that.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


One of my psych inmates is refusing his meds. His behavior is still fine, though he's clearly on edge, walking in tighter and tighter circles and showing the gross motor activity (GMA) of near panic or near rage.

He feels he sees the world so much clearer without medication. The 'invisible men' who run everything, route all money through their hands and manipulate the children with television so that they grow up to be unable to think in certain ways or challenge or question... this is all much clearer to him without the fog of medication.

I'm worried that if he sees it clearly enough, he will feel the need to do something and we will once more have to respond to him arguing or fighting with a person that only he can see. That's his cycle both inside and outside of custody.

I was raised on a self-sufficient survivalist ranch in the 70's. My parents were sure that soon, very soon, either a nuclear war or a massive economic crisis or an ecological crisis was inevitable and my teen years were spent training and preparing for it. I still know people who believe the same things and dozens of people who feel that world events and American politics are controlled by a shadowy group of rich and powerful men.

They aren't in prison or on medication. Because their delusions are less severe? Or because they control their behavior better? Most people talk to themselves in their own minds all the time. Is hearing voices a matter of degeree? When I debate two sides of a question with myself or play chess alone, am I flirting with voluntary schizophrenia?

Of course not. Maybe.

Everyone sees the world differently, but there is an unspoken agreement of both how differently we are allowed to see it and how much it can affect our actions before society quitely labels you "other". From that point on, no matter your intelligence or the profundity of your insight, anything you say can be dismissed as "crazy talk".

Everyone has seen something unusual- the human image at the edge of your vision that disappears when you face it. The distinct sound of footsteps in an empty building. And nearly everyone dismisses it as just imagination. An optical illusion. Nothing. They move on. How many children have had imaginary playmates, as real to them as anyone in the house? How many of those children were constantly told to quit lying, quit making things up, quit being a baby until the best friend they ever had is an embarassing memory of delusion?

What if you were to embrace these illusions, look for the people at the edge of your vision? What if you were to find them? What if this was the key to the song-sorcerers of the Finnish Kalevala and the lost Druidic mysteries? Would you be allowed to return to the world that everyone agrees on? Or would they give you some chemicals and call it "crazy talk"?